The process of worshiping God in spirit and in truth has been in God’s original intention from the beginning of the world. This was to be conscientiously followed according to His laid down laws and principles for and in a particular age. To achieve this, God gradually developed the thought process of men by means of giving them instructions (or commandments). Faithful men whose intentions are to serve the living God abide strictly by the order of God in their ages. In line with this purpose, the scripture records the progressive building up of man’s consciousness in worship from the patriarchal dispensation (age of the fathers) to the Jewish and the Christian ages.
At the patriarchal age, that is, during the period of Noah, Abraham and company, God did not give them written laws but allowed them to use their consciences to worship Him. This made them, out of their personal will, to make vows and sacrifices to God like Jacob did at Bethel (Gen. 28:18-21).
Later, God changed the process and chose only the Israelites as His people out of the nations of the then world as His holy nation. He made them a type (example) of true worshippers (Exo. 19:5-6). He gave them laws and ordinances on everything which pertained to life and godliness. He raised models among them who served as icons in various aspects of faith and righteousness, not only for the people of that generation but also to the present generation. Some of such models were Moses whom God described as the meekest man on earth who also served as the mediator of the old covenant and a prophet (Num. 12:3; Deu. 18:18); David whom He described as a man after His heart ( ); Solomon, a model of wisdom ( ); Job, a model of faith and patience (Jas 5:11). He also created some pattern or order in their worship which were to serve as types or shadows of the true worship in Christianity. They included animal sacrifices, holy days (like the Sabbaths) and holy feasts (like the Passover, the Tabernacle, etc.). They were to be respected and revered.
However, the Israelites could not maintain the sanctity of the items of their worship. Their mind-sets were still canal because their worship was full of hypocrisy, instead of conscientious spiritual worship expected from them by God. They rather were quick to judge those who broke the laws or their holy days but lacked justice and mercy in their attitudes. For instance, they offered polluted animals as sacrifices to God and Malachi lamented and expressed their disappointing God, saying;
A son honours his father and a servant his master. if then I am the Father, where is My honour? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised your name?’ “You offer defiled food on My altar. But say, ‘In what way have we defiled you?’ By saying, ‘The table of the LORD is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favourably? Says the LORD of hosts (Mal. 1:6-8).
Another example worth mention are the reactions of the Pharisees when the disciples of Christ went to the farm to pluck corn on a Sabbath day because they were hungry and when Jesus also healed on a Sabbath day (Matt. 12:1-14).
This is why God through Isaiah said,
Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honour Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men. Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvellous work among this people, a marvellous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden (Isa. 29:13-14).
Again, as the people could still not operate within the ambit of the law, God spoke through Jeremiah,
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD (Jer. 31:31-32).
Jesus Christ came to bring the minds of the people to the reality of worshiping God in spirit and in truth. He also exposed the hypocrisy of the Israelites. This is why during His teachings He said, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (Jn. 4:23). He also drew the attention of the people to the fact that the old pattern of worship which was a shadow of true worship was no longer necessary.
No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, making the tear worse; neither do men pour new wine into old wine skins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wine skins, and both are preserved (Matt 9:16-17).
He said that to disabuse the minds of those who tenaciously held onto the old pattern as means of obtaining salvation.
Paul, also, in his ministry explained further when he said that those were the shadows of things that were to come, the reality, however, being found in Christ (Col. 2:16). This explains that there were prototypes of things which were so made to give people of this age an idea of the actual things. Therefore, it behoves us as Christians to identify what were those shadows so that we will not make mistake of dwelling in them to the detriment of our faith and salvation because any act of righteousness which is haphazardly practised is not acceptable by God. “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jas 2:10).
It is important at this point to identify those things that were regarded as shadows and the real things. The Bible is divided into two major sections (the Old and the New Testaments) and contains two major religions (Judaism and Christianity). Judaism was the shadow (prototype) of Christianity. It was a national religion for the people of Israel and Moses, being a shadow of Christ was the mediator of its covenants. Christianity is a global religion with Jesus Christ as the mediator (Heb 12:2).
But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises (Heb 8:6).
Moses, the mediator of the old covenant even prophesied of Christ’s superiority.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, “according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. ‘I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him (Deu. 18:15-19; see also Acts 3:21-23).
Most of the items of Old Testament worship and their holy feasts were shadows. That was why the Sabbath day worship gave way to Christians’ daily worship as reference to God and the feasts of harvest of fruits, that is the Pentecost and the Tabernacle gave way to the harvest of soul (Num. 28:26). This is why the scripture warns that nobody has the right to judge anybody for not keeping the Sabbath.
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Col. 2:16-17).
This entails that there is the actual and new way of worship whose practices should not be combined with the former. This message is to help us to understand the things the scripture refers to as the shadows and the real things.
You can understand the operation of God if you turn to Christ who will give you the Spirit to enable you worship God in spirit and in truth. You need to be baptised for the forgiveness of your sin and Christ will add you to His Church.
We will conclude the listing out of items that were regarded as shadows and the real things in the second edition of this topic. May God bless you for believing His words.